MERCS: An Interview with Megacon Games!

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bLank here everybody and today I interview the guys at Megacon Games about MERCS! 

MERCS is a game that’s been flying out of everybody’s mouth as of late. I figured I’d do my best investigative journalist impression and do some digging. I got the opportunity to interview Keith Lowe, Brain Shotton, and Kenny Sims who are the Co-Owners of Megacon Games the company behind MERCS.

Me: Can you give our readers that might not be familiar with MERCS a good sense of the world and the game?

Keith: The world of MERCS is set in the not too distant future. Corporations have merged with nations to create what we call (Multi-national Global System mega-conglomerates), or MegaCons for short. A new securities division is created to maintain and control the corporate assets under the handle: MERCS. Players take control of an elite 5 man squad of MERCS from one of the various MegaCons. Each squad has a unique look, feel, and play style, represented in the form of Corporate Abilities. Additionally, each team members has unique personal abilities that set them apart from their allies. The game takes place on smaller skirmish sized maps that simulate realistic combat scenarios. Those situations can be as straight forward as eliminating the enemy, or more complex like extracting an asset or controlling a position.

Me: What separates MERCS from other urban warfare miniature games?
Brian: MERCS comes from my experience in the Army. It uses the basic infantry field manual to educate positive and negative modifiers. It really rewards smart play. We have said this from the beginning, but if you play this game like you do some others, it will go bad for you. Successful players move and move a lot. They do not remain stagnate or take up positions and stay. In addition, as players learn the advanced combat maneuvers, the strength of suppressing, flanking, and controlling areas of the table top begins to really play an important part in victory.
MERCS isn’t about creating an army or list that is better than your opponent. It is about the combat tactics a player brings to the table. When a player wins, they know it is because they played a good game at the table. The tactics must be sound.
Me: What is a good place for a beginner to start with the game?

Keith: When we do demos, we tend to keep things simple and play without the previously mentioned advanced combat maneuvers. It allows players to first get the feel of the movement system, learn how ranged and melee combat function, and understand how personal and corporate abilities make their team unique. A beginning player will have success if he/she begins with a terrain setup that isn’t super dense as well. A few big buildings and some smaller cover. It will help educate the value of cover and taking up good positions. It’s very eye opening when they see that standing in the open and out of cover means certain death in MERCS.
Me: Are there plans for a 2 Player Starter Box?
Brian: We have thought about this for a while and with the moving to plastics we are creeping ever-closer to this as a reality. It is not in place yet, but we are very hopeful we can have something like this mid to late next year.
Me: What was the thought process behind the way units move, namely the use of the card as a ruler?
Brian: We knew players were already comfortable with using a tape measure or ruler, and MERCS cards replicate this very easily with the side hash marks. However, on a 2D or open 3D environment, the unique half-circle movement system works very fast and is extremely fluid. It also allows new players space to understand movement without being intimidated by a tape measure.  
Me: MERCS runs on a D10 system,  what about the D10 initially attracted you to it?
Brian: I knew MERCS was going to reward good play with several modifiers. There is good deal more design space in a d10 system than say a d6 or d6 pool system, so it allowed me to stack rewards and provide a real sense of good play choices equal on the table success.  
Me: The Snap-To-Cover mechanic is really interesting, did you originally intend people to use it offensively? 
Brian: Snap-to-cover is pretty cool. I certainly knew players would find interesting ways to use S2C, but I had no idea it would become such a dynamic, game changing mechanic. The first time I saw a S2C and Set from a Heavy, I was blown away. It really allows players to bring there imagination into the movement on the table and into the combat. Every year at the world championships at Gencon, some player uses S2C in a new and different way.
Me: Can you describe the MERCS Campaign system, and are there plans for retailer supported organized play?
Brian: The MERCS campaign system has been in beta for quite some time and will be included in the new rule book. Players must begin with a team of 3 MERCS. They must move into and control locations. These locations provide resources to the MegaCon the players use to expand and upgrade their MERCS teams. The best location provide more resources but are in dangerous areas all players can reach and fight over. It is pretty cool and offered an interesting take on a free-form campaign.
We are getting ready to reboot the MERCS Black Ops program. It is pretty exciting. This is our retailer support and player reward program. The first was overly complicated and really was more of a hindrance then a help to players and stores. It has been streamlined and is almost ready for prime-time. The website is being constructed now and should be ready by Gencon.   
Me: Are there plans for expansions/extensions to the original rulebook?
Brian: Yes. I am working on it right now actually. MERCS 2.0 should be ready to go 4th quarter this year or 1st quarter next year. The book will have every faction (even ones not currently released) and every archetype. It will have rules for alternate game modes, scenarios, and campaign setting. It is a gigantic book with a ton of goodies.
Me: There are a few other games that bear the MERCS moniker, can you briefly describe those and how they are different from the original game? 

Kenny: MERCS Conflict is a dice game based in the MERCS universe where each player takes control of the CEO of a MegaCon. Players use infrastructure dice to purchase asset dice like Military, Espionage, Political or Economics. These dice are used to attack or subvert your opponent. Each faction has unique abilities and a leader that drastically affect how the game is played and won. Once a player has depleted his opponents dice (aka resources) that MegaCon is bankrupt and loses the game.
MERCS Recon shares one similarity with the tabletop game. The same factions and MERCS teams are used in the game. MERCS Recon is a fully cooperative squad based game where players control one MERCS team and infiltrate an office building of an opposing MegaCon. Players attempt to complete their mission while minimizing civilian casualties and avoid raising the security level as they progress through the office to their objectives. As the security level rises more powerful security forces start appearing to stop the MERCS. When the squad reaches their objective the gameplay switches to a breach and clear action where the MERCS must overpower the OpFor without endangering their objective located in the room. Players must coordinate and manage their actions in order to have any hope of success.
MERCS RPG is a traditional roleplaying game where players gather around a table and choose one MegaCon to work for under the guidance of a Arbiter (DM). The players start off as low level operatives in the MegaCon and need to go on missions run by the Arbiter (DM) in order to improve their skills and one day become a MERCS team with access to all the best gear a MegaCon can provide.

11) What is your favorite MERCS faction/model and why?

Brian: I am a fan of several. There are unique things within each that call to me. I love the look and area-of-effect damage CCC brings to the table. I love the speed and synergy of sefadu. To watch an expert play the moving zone control of USCR is truly a beautiful thing, and the Behemoth model is absolutely bad ass. I like the way our female models, like the CCC Incinerator are fully armored and not half-nude combatants. With all that said, and with all the unique game mechanic each and every faction MERCS brings, I would say my favorite miniatures is the House 4 Heavy. I love the stance, the gun, the gut, and the face plate helmet.
Kenny: KemVar is my favorite faction. My favorite model is the Assassin within the KemVar faction. The Assassin is one of the few MERCS that can move and attack when performing melee attacks, making him particularly scary. I love the idea of their Active Camouflage corporate power as well as their ability to perform well in both ranged and melee equally well. The KemVar sniper is also very unique because she is the only MERC in the game that can fire repulsive tags and keep enemy MERCS one card away. This makes healing from Medics impossible which is awesome.
Keith: It’s tough to pin down. For me it’s the most exciting when the design of model matches the flavor and play style. For example, I love how “crunky” House 9’s armor is. Each model’s gear is very asymmetrical. They have a maneuver called Debris Crawl, and so I tried to make the clothes look nice and tattered like they spend a good amount of time in the dirt. Another great match of look and play is sefadu. They have a really strong african vibe, and all the poses have an awesome feeling of motion. This is very in-line with where they are from, and how they play in the game. USCR’s corporate ability is Intimidate, and I really tried to push a heavy menacing look on them. The visor really sells it for me; very simple but a nice slant which reminds me of furrowed eyes. I like that CCC, EU, and House 4 all feel like logical progressions of modern western combat armor into a near future feel. I guess I have a soft spot for them all in one way or another!

There you go kids! Let me know what you thought or who you want to see an interview from next in the comments. If you want to see more from me, click the link here.

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